Pete Rose has petitioned new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to be reinstated after two and a half decades in exile. It’s time to acknowledge that he’s been punished enough for his transgressions and deserves to be recognized as one of the game’s greats by MLB and the Hall of Fame.
“Charlie Hustle” wasn’t the most athletically gifted, but none played the game harder. He was a blue collar hero who often showed a reckless disregard for his own health as much as his opponents. Rose holds the all-time record with an astonishing 4,256 hits. He won two Gold Gloves, attended 17 All-Star games, finished top 10 in MVP voting eight times and won it once, and was a Rookie of the Year. He never showed much power, which sets him back compared to other prolific hitters like Aaron and Mays, but if he were eligible the length and consistency of his career would undoubtedly get him into the Hall of Famer.
Rose is obviously not without his faults. His personal demons ultimately led to his being barred from baseball in 1989 for betting on games, including on the team he was managing, though Rose insists only ever to win. The Hall of Fame passed a rule shortly thereafter rendering him ineligible for baseball’s highest honor. Rose further compounded his errors by long denying any wrongdoing before finally admitting to the public in 2007 that he bet on baseball while managing the Reds.
Still, there’s been a noticeable disparity between Rose’s treatment and other troubled players. Josh Hamilton’s struggles with addiction are well known, and MLB has rightfully provided him both with ongoing support and second chances. His recent setback will hopefully be met with similar compassion.
There are also known cheaters in the Hall of Fame. Numerous pitchers in the Hall are known to have routinely altered balls to gain an advantage and are nonetheless honored by and welcome in MLB. And even with today’s stringent rules and testing regime for performance enhancing drugs, a lifetime ban only occurs after multiple offenses. Pete Rose was caught once and banished for life.
This disparity is explained by MLB’s history, which saw two major fixing scandals, including the notorious Black Sox scandal that threw the 1919 World Series. But it’s never been claimed that Rose bet on his team to lose, and few would believe it anyway. Rose’s judgment may have been clouded by his addiction, but there was nothing he valued more than winning.
In 1999, baseball granted Rose a one-time exception to attend the celebration of the All-Century team, to which he had been selection. The fans in Atlanta, whose franchise Rose had never been affiliated with, gave him the loudest ovation. They knew all about his faults, but still wanted to recognize a once-in-a-lifetime player. At the end of the day, it’s just baseball.
More than fifteen years since he was last allowed on a field, it’s time to wave Charlie Hustle home one more time. Rules matter, and the now 73-year old Pete Rose deserved to be punished. But he’s served his time. Today’s fans deserve the opportunity to truly celebrate one of the game’s best while he’s still around.
Click through the gallery to take a look back at Pete Rose through the years.